Photo of Isabel and Maisie.
“You’re where?” I said into the phone. “What do you mean you put ten dollars down on a dog! I don’t want a dog! What do you mean Bob and I are getting too old and need a companion? I don’t need a dog. No. I don’t care! Wha ... ?”
My daughter went on to explain that she’d been looking for a year for us at the Animal Humane place, and finally she’d found one that she knew would work for us both.
“Just come and take a look,” she said. “You don’t have to adopt. Just look and leave.”
“Oh, for gosh sakes Shauna, I huffed to my youngest. “After Muffin went, I told you that SHE was our LAST dog.”
That afternoon, I was at Animal Humane, annoyed that I’d even caved into this wild goose ... mutt chase, as the volunteer brought out a small white dog and placed her on the floor. Her ears were down; her head was down; she seemed completely grief-stricken. The gal told us they’d taken her last puppy away an hour ago.
“Oh, for gosh sakes,” I droned to my daughter, my eyes riveted to the animal. “OK. OK. The things we do for our children,” I grumbled.
“Would you like to hold her?” the volunteer asked.
“ Not really,” I returned. “Just get her ready and I’ll pay the fees. Has she had all her shots?”
“Yes, we make sure that’s done, but you should know she’s not house trained. She lived a pretty difficult life - kept outside all the time, sometimes no water, no food. She’s suffered broken ribs where she’s been kicked, and her spine has knots. We also think she was in a ‘breeder camp’ for Rat Terriers. All they did was impregnate her.”
I just squinted, turning my eyes off to the left biting my lips, saddened by the strains of a song that surfaced once again in my memory, “bless the beasts and the children, for in this world, they have no voice; they have no choice.”
Very soon, I was walking across the street to a vacant lot with my new adoptee on the end of a leash. I wanted to make sure she got a pee break before we got in the car.
During the next weeks, it was a real trial, an error saga, with me often wanting to pile her back in the car and returning her to Animal Humane, and she always looking for a way “out” to freedom. She peed on my carpets, pooped in the hall and tried constantly to escape. Once I went out to shop and when I got home, I saw that she’d clawed the lower dining room windowsill and the top of my hall desk seeking escape.
But, time passes. I really didn’t love her, and she didn’t love me. We liked each other - sort of - but that was about it. On a trip to north to New Mexico’s outback, love began when she sat down, turned her head left and sucked in her lips. I’d stopped the car in a great place to do an exploratory hike.
“Nope. I ain’t goin’, no matter what you do to me, ” came her voiceless intent. I picked her up and held her upside down, close to my chest. She shrieked constantly as I trudged into the forest, only to come upon a huge, unexpected cut in the mountain with a hidden slice that pitched straight down over one-hundred feet.
After that, I paid attention to her infrequent “nope-I-ain’t-goin’ ” declarations. Other than that she was a real pal of the trail, often leading, or sitting close when we lunched and admired the surrounds.
There came the day, when I was sitting in the back yard, and watched her run all around its perimeter, smiling, jumping, sailing through the air, her two front feet crossed in a beautiful acrobatic ballet of motion. I chased her and she rolled over on the ground. I reached down and gathered her to me, kissing her, as she shrieked with joy.
Love arrived that day and said “hello - got any room in your hearts?”
Oh, my. Just didn’t we.
The time whorled on and she became a constant companion to my Bob, who was now in the last stages of Lewy Body dementia after a long ten year journey. The dementia is a form of decline where deposits build up in the forehead and over-ear parts of the in the nerves of the brain. In his last days at home, she never left his side and I often found him someplace in the neighborhood, sitting against a tree, holding her close. He became so unpredictable, night and day, I was forced to place him in a care home with locked doors to prevent his escaping. When I brought Maisie there for the first time, she went into his room, jumped on his bed and sniffed him. He petted her, held her close, and then after a while, she made exploratory visits to the other rooms, bringing comfort to those residents too. My Bob passed and she was standing beside me as we scattered ashes in all the places he’d always said he wanted to be placed.
During the lonely nights of widowhood, she and I became an inseparable team. I was so grateful to feel her in my lap, giving her the first lick of my evening Cabernet, my morning coffee. We traveled and hiked here and there in the city and state. Often, we ran and raced each other. Other times we lay on the ground beside Northern New Mexico streams and enjoyed the quiet and togetherness.
Almost ten years after we came together, I returned from a trip and my dog sitter told me that Maisie’s back legs had become paralyzed. When I went to her, she tried to get up, her eyes looked at me with the love she’d painted the bridge between the two of us so long ago. I picked her up, turned to my daughter and asked her to call the vet and make an appointment to put her down. My heart was breaking, and as the tears began falling, Maisie licked them off my face.
Holding her close, I watched the light fade from her eyes, as the shot did its work. I refused to let them put her in a box, and carried her into the car, her head tucked against my neck, under my ear, feeling her warmth turn to cold.
I buried her that afternoon, just after sunset, under the huge blue spruce in our backyard. Shauna and I placed her gently in the grave my next door neighbor, Jack, had so kindly dug when we left for the vet. Part of Bob’s ashes were there too, and I wanted them to be together.
the three years since, I often sit with my morning coffee or sunset
Cabernet close to her collar with attached bandana that hangs on a
lower branch of the tall pine. Often, I sing a bit, feeling her
warm in my lap. I smile seeing her running with joy around the
yard, sitting and saying “nope, I ain’t goin’ ”
and I know surely and sincerely, my Maisie taught me to love
I love you my Maisie - now and forever. I know you’ll be here for me when you know the time is right, and I’ll say “Yep, I’m commin - don’t run so fast ...”
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Isabel's Story List and Biography